Isaiah 25:6-9 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation."
One chapter before this, Isaiah states how the earth is cursed, the vine languishes, the wine mourns, the inhabitants of the earth and the earth are scorched. The picture Isaiah 24 paints is one of desolation and anguish. There is no music. There is no joy. Almost exactly one chapter later, Isaiah paints the opposite picture. There is abundance and wine, the tears of God’s people will be wiped away. Death no longer lingers over the earth, over shadowing and over powering her inhabitants. No, death is swallowed up forever. The Lord will save.
We could say Isaiah 24 is the picture of fallen humanity. Israel represents this so well in their sin and their exile. Despairing, lamenting, dying, crying—this would be Israel’s existence in exile. This is humanity’s existence in exile. Yes, we have been in exile. We were created for the Garden, for the Presence of God and as Genesis 3 narrates we were cast out of the Garden, out of God’s presence—death entered our world with it despair and tears.
Isaiah 25 is the picture of God’s Kingdom come. More than a fool’s hope, more than a dream…it is God’s reality breaking into our brokenness. God will dwell with his people again just like he did in Eden. We will feast and celebrate again and our tears will be wiped away. As God’s people are faced with exile and hardship, the promise of God is restoration—not being restored to David’s Kingdom but being restored to Eden. God dwelling with humanity, humanity living in the place created for them and being in harmony with God and all of Creation.
Revelation 21:1-6 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband. 3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever." 5 And the one sitting on the throne said, "Look, I am making all things new!" And then he said to me, "Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true." 6 And he also said, "It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega-- the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give the springs of the water of life without charge!
Have you ever read a book series? The one that comes to my mind is the Harry Potter series. From the first book, a conflict arises which you know will have to culminate and be resolved. The story is working towards this one event—the fight between good and evil—which if good wins, will lead to peace and a new hope. In Harry Potter’s case, the story through each book is leading to the final battle between Voldemorte and Harry Potter. If Harry Potter wins, lives will be saved and peace restored for all. In Scripture, the Cross is the epic battle between good and evil. Thanks be to God, Christ is victorious. Now Revelation 21 is the picture of what Christ’s victory has secured for all of Creation. Eden is restored. Well, the picture the author uses is that of the City of New Jerusalem—in the New Testament—cities are the picture of peace and prosperity not gardens. Nature and wilderness are places where people wrestle with evil and where demons live. So Eden transforms into the New Jerusalem. But the picture doesn’t change the truth—God dwells with his people for ever. Evil is vanquished. The brokenness of the world is washed away. God and humanity dwell together, harmony is restored.
John 11:32-44 32 When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell down at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." 33 When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, he was moved with indignation and was deeply troubled. 34 "Where have you put him?" he asked them. They told him, "Lord, come and see." 35 Then Jesus wept. 36 The people who were standing nearby said, "See how much he loved him." 37 But some said, "This man healed a blind man. Why couldn't he keep Lazarus from dying?" 38 And again Jesus was deeply troubled. Then they came to the grave. It was a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39 "Roll the stone aside," Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man's sister, said, "Lord, by now the smell will be terrible because he has been dead for four days." 40 Jesus responded, "Didn't I tell you that you will see God's glory if you believe?" 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, "Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so they will believe you sent me." 43 Then Jesus shouted, "Lazarus, come out!" 44 And Lazarus came out, bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, "Unwrap him and let him go!"
When I go to the movies, I love watching the previews before the featured movie begins. Those teasers give us a glimpse of the movies coming out in the next year. They give just enough information to whet your appetite for the movie without giving away too much of the story. Sometimes I see the preview of a movie I know is expected out soon which creates more anticipation in me to see it. Sometimes I am surprised by the trailer—I didn’t know they were making that book into a movie which leads to excitement and anticipation. In a way, Jesus is the ultimate trailer. But the story he is telling is not a fictional story, it is God’s reality. He is the Kingdom of God come to earth. He is the window giving us a glimpse at God. In John it states that when we see Jesus we see the Father. He is the window into the Kingdom of God, Jesus only does what the Father does. His work is the Father’s work. And what does God look like? Sacrificial love—Jesus is the Father pouring out his heart, his love for humanity and sacrificing himself for our sake. What does the Kingdom of God look like? It looks like the demon possessed being set free. It looks like the blind being given sight. It looks like the lame walking. It looks like the outcasts finding a home. It looks like sins being forgiven. It looks like the dead raising to life. The trailer of the Kingdom—Jesus Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection—looks like humanity being loosed from our brokenness, loosed from sin and death’s cold grip and being resurrected as new creations-the old earth and old heaven being passed away and the new earth and new heaven coming clearly into focus.
Today we remember those who have passed from this broken world into the Presence of God. They are seeing clearly what we see dimly through a glass. We celebrate that the death which they have experienced is not permanent. It is a doorway leading to a fuller experience of God’s Kingdom which we experience in a broken, disjointed way in this life. They are on the other side of the window. Meanwhile, we live in the now and not yet—the time between the great battle—the Cross—and the New Jerusalem of Revelation. We await the resurrection of our bodies, the mortal putting on immortality, the full reign of Christ when death will be silenced and our tears wiped away.
In many stories, there are in-between times. In Harry Potter, the in between time is presented in the words “19 years later”. In the Lord of the Rings, Aragorn the promised king states now is the time to rebuild in peace. In C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the story states that the new kings and queens spent the early part of their reign driving out the last remnants of the White Witches army and bringing peace to Narnia. The in between time is when the destruction wrought by the great evil and the great battle is repaired. It is the time when the new order or the new king begins. Slowly things are rebuilt. Slowly new policies and procedures are put in place. Slowly, peace trickles into the world.
This is our time. We are in the in between. The battle is over. The victory is won. We have acknowledged Jesus as the rightful King. We are now part of the reality of God’s Kingdom invading the brokenness of our world. We are partners with God in the Gospel, joint heirs with Christ, and ambassadors of God’s Kingdom. The change in our lives should begin to have a ripple effect on our world. We have passed from death unto life. We have been loosed from the power of sin and death. Our physical bodies just need time to catch up with the spiritual reality.
So what does it look like when the Kingdom of God comes to earth? It looks like Jesus—It looks like the oppressed being set free, the blind given sight, the lame walking, the outcasts finding a home, sinners who are forgiven, and the dead raising to life. Part of me shrinks back and wants to declare, this is all symbolic today right? Yet part of me longs for our brokenness to be repaired fully. I want the oppressed set free. Those who the tyrants in other nations oppress and those who the American big businesses and economy have oppressed---all set free. I want people transformed by a radical forgiveness. I want broken bodies mended. This is the Kingdom of God according to Jesus. The tension of living in the in between is overwhelming at times. I believe all which happened in Jesus and through Jesus still happens today. Yet I tremble at the same time with the thought. I cannot make those things happen. What I can do is live as one who is in the Kingdom of God.
What do the people who live in this Kingdom look like? Matthew 5—they are humble, meek, poor in spirit, thirsty for God, peacemakers. We are loosed from the grip of sin and death to live humbly, meekly, needy and thirsty for God, making peace with those we love, those we like, and those who turn our stomachs. But we get sidetracked by the materialism, the vengeful anger of our world and society. We lose sight of the Kingdom we are supposed to be bringing. Perhaps because we stop looking through the window and get stuck looking at the broken mess of a world we live in or at our own selves and desires. If we want to look like the Kingdom and live in the Kingdom, we need to look at the window again. Get a new glimpse of Jesus and remember we are loosed from the bondage of sin and death. Oh, that doesn’t mean it has no effect on us. We still are in a broken world. But John Wesley believed we are going on to perfection in love. Sin has no hold on us. And we know, death has no hold on us. It is simply walking through another door into a deeper experience of God. We celebrate the realization of God’s Kingdom today—All Saint’s Day.
Will we let God make us into windows of the Kingdom of God? So when people look at us, they can glimpse God’s Kingdom at work. Will we be a people who are humble, meek, thirsty and needy for God, and peace makers? Brothers and sisters, in the words of Jesus Christ, be unbound, unwrapped from the old nature of selfishness, sin and death. Come forth in Jesus’ name. You are loosed.